I’ve never met a surfer that I didn’t like. They come in all ages, shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. A recent article in The Huffington Post describes surfers this way. “They chase waves for hours and laugh like little kids. The ocean is their meditation and they revel in the tides. They’re a splendid balance of free-spirited, playful animals that are also fiercely determined to achieve their personal best.” Surfers are willing to travel the world over in search of waves.
Back in my barista days, I probably had a crush on at least half a dozen surfers who frequented my shop. Today I am writing about one of them who has been on the hearts and minds of many of us lately. Today he is riding a different type of wave; a surfer tsunami you might say. His name is Duwane and a couple of months ago he had a seizure which led to the discovery of a rare type of brain cancer. Duwane hasn’t really left the hospital since; in fact last week he celebrated his 52nd birthday while still there.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Duwane. He too owned a coffee shop a couple of blocks from mine and I stopped in one afternoon to say “hello” and to introduce myself. He was standing out front that day cleaning out an ice cream freezer that he thought would be a nice addition to his shop. Duwane was the first “official” surfer that I met when I moved to Virginia Beach. Like most women and maybe some men too, I was immediately captivated by his good looks and warm personality. It wasn’t long afterwards that Duwane sold his shop and he as well as a lot of his customers drifted to mine where I developed a good friendship with him. I could always depend on Duwane to help me out with things that needed to be done around the shop and that meant a lot to me. Duwane is quick witted, kind hearted and willing to speak candidly about subjects that he feels passionate about. Some days our conversations were lively and spirited while other days we were content to share space and not talk much about anything. That was the way it was when I visited him in the hospital this past Memorial Day. It was rainy and gray outside; a rather depressing day but I was content to sit on the edge of the bed while he slept peacefully in the chair beside me. I felt too helpless to do anything else and I kept thinking as he slept about how unfair life can sometimes be. Occasionally he would wake up and tell me about some of the things that he plans to do when he is able. He even had me write them down on a piece of paper and encouraged me to brainstorm with him a little bit. I admired his optimism in the face of what he was going through. Difficult situations like this can be awkward at times. We don’t always know what to say or do so we sit on the sidelines and hope and pray and wait for a miracle to happen. Thankfully Duwane is not alone in his tsunami. He is blessed to be surrounded by many caring friends (both physically and spiritually) and family members too. The surfing community is a like a brother/sisterhood; they seem to look out for one another, especially during times like this. In fact you can feel the love radiating from all of the comments posted on his Facebook page. God has also sent a “special angel” to watch over him during these tough times and she reports back to the rest of us on an almost daily basis. We all look forward to and appreciate her updates and her devotion to him.
Duwane continues to inspire us as he moves through yet another difficult chapter in his life. On his birthday He was baptized with ocean water; perhaps another one of those things that surfers do. Regardless it’s a beautiful thing. Hopefully with God’s help and Duwane’s fighting spirit, the tsunami will soon dissipate and he can resume his spot at the 1st Street jetty or wherever he chooses to be surfing with the rest of his friends.
R.I.P. Duwane, October 11th, 2016